The way our body responds to stress is one of the reasons we have been able to survive so well as a species. Going back to when we were cavemen, our ability to respond to external threats with the fight or flight response, and imprint these situations in our memory was amazing in allowing us to escape from predators. Now that we have evolved into work and home based beings, our physical predators are a lot less (seen any lions wandering around lately?) but our body still responds to stress in the same ways. It is a lot harder to fight or run away from an overdue bill though!
Our fight or flight response was designed for a short burst until we can get away from danger. This worked fantastically when we could run away from the bear, then go back to our low stress day to day activities. This would allow a recovery time for our body to move away from ‘fight or flight’ mode, and go into ‘rest and digest’ mode. Now in our high stress modern lifestyles when we constantly have what our brain perceives as ‘threats’, our fight or flight response can become almost permanently switched on, or on a very slight trigger, ready to be set off by the smallest change.
This constant vigilance can cause many things to change within our body. Usually there is a balance of stress and rest, with our body using the rest time to ‘catch up’ on things it puts off when we are stressed or threatened, like digesting food maximally, bolstering the immune system, balancing hormones and good quality sleep. But when we are constantly under stress, our body neglects these things, as they are not crucial systems if we are about to be eaten by a lion. This is how chronic, constant stress can lead to digestive issues (intolerances and bloating etc), low immune function resulting in illness, imbalanced hormones which can lead to fertility issues and weight management issues, just to name a few, and a whole host of other systemic, body wide problems.
When we are in fight or flight mode, our body prioritises this over anything else, remember our body thinks this is crucial to our survival! So our adrenal system ‘steals’ nutrients and minerals from other systems to prioritise cortisol and other stress hormones, leaving other systems unable to function correctly or at full capacity. One of the main minerals stolen by the adrenal system is magnesium. Magnesium is used in over 400 processes in our body, but when our body prioritises fight or flight there is often a shortage of Magnesium for other processes. This is why it is so important to supplement this crucial mineral in times of stress, to allow our body to function correctly in other areas, not just the fight or flight response.
Making time to relax and ‘switch off’ is now more crucial than ever. In our ‘always on’ society, we are constantly bombarded with emails, reminders and alerts, and it takes a conscious effort to step away from the high stress, day to day tasks. Taking time to step away from screens and finding a cathartic activity to distract your brain can be a great way to unwind. Things like reading a book, meditating, painting or knitting are great. Time spent with family and friends is good too, enjoying the outdoors and moving your body. Making to-do lists so tasks aren’t cluttering your brain, especially if you are having trouble going off to sleep at night.
Prioritise ways to take stress off your body, by making sure you are getting sufficient sleep, eating well and decreasing alcohol intake. Adaptogen supplements that support the adrenal system like withania can also be a good idea, and Magnesium supplements to keep up your levels of this crucial mineral. Being aware of your posture and how you move your body can also affect the levels of stress on the body.
Want to know more about how to reduce stress? Follow our socials this month for small changes you can make to decrease your stress, and join us for our ‘stress loss’ challenge, from the 24th to the 30th October, 2022.
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At Ballarat and District Chiropractic Center, we want you to be empowered when it comes your health. We want to help you by sharing all our knowledge about Chiropractic.